Amsterdam, 27 July 1877

My dear Theo,
Thanks for your last letter, I heard from home that you’ve already been to Mauve’s,1 that was undoubtedly a good day, I’ll certainly hear about it sometime, when the opportunity arises. Herewith a contribution for your collection, namely three lithographs after Bosboom2 and two by J. Weissenbruch,3 found them this morning at a Jewish bookseller’s. Is that one after Bosboom the church in Scheveningen? The other is the Grote Kerk in Breda, the third after his painting that was at the large exhibition in Paris. Those two after Weissenbruch moved me – perhaps you already have them, but then again possibly not. Do go on collecting such prints, and books too.
I’m now collecting Latin and Greek themes and all kinds of writings on history and so on.4 Am working on one on the Reformation that’s getting rather long.
Recently spoke to a young man who had just done his entrance examination for the Leiden college with a good result – it isn’t easy, he told me what they asked him, but I do keep up my courage, and with God’s help I’ll pass them, and the following examinations as well. Mendes has given me every reason to believe that at the end of three months we’ll be as far as he imagined we would be if everything went well.5 Still, Greek lessons in the heart of Amsterdam, in the heart of the Jewish quarter on a very warm and oppressive summer afternoon, with the feeling hanging over me that many difficult examinations will have to be taken, set by very learned and cunning professors, are rather more oppressive than a walk on the beach or in the Brabant wheatfields, which will certainly be beautiful now, on a day like that. But we must ‘strive on’ through everything, as Uncle Jan says.
A couple of days ago a couple of children fell into the water near the Kattenburg bridge. Uncle saw it and commandeered the sloop of the Makasser that is in dock here.6 A little boy was pulled out; I went along with two ship’s doctors whom Uncle had sent over, and the men carrying the boy into a chemist’s shop made every effort to resuscitate the child, but to no avail. In the meantime it was recognized by the father, who’s a stoker at the dockyard, and the little body was taken home in a woollen blanket. The search went on for an hour and a half, as it was thought that a girl had fallen in as well, though happily that seems not to be the case.7 In the evening I went back to see the people, it was then already dark in the house, the little body lay so still on a bed in a side room, he was such a sweet little boy. There was great sorrow, that child was the light of that house, as it were, and that light had now been put out. Even though coarse people express their grief in a coarse way and without dignity, as the mother did, among others, still, one feels a great deal in such a house of mourning,8 and the impression stayed with me the whole evening when I took a walk.
Last Sunday morning I made a nice excursion, namely first to the early sermon, the Rev. Posthumus Meijjes in the Noorderkerk,9 then to Bickerseiland,10 where I walked on the dyke along the IJ until it was time for church again, and then to the Eilandskerk where Uncle Stricker preached.11 Thus the time passes, and quickly too, already we’re almost at the end of the week again.  1v:2
How are you, old chap? So very often, daily, do I think of you.
God help us, struggling, to stay on top,12 it is good that you associate with good artists; I, too, still cling to the memory of many of them. Overcome evil with good,13 it is written, and one can seek to do it – and to this end God can help and make our days bearable with much good in the meantime, and preserve us from too much self-reproach.
When Uncle Jan commandeered the sloop and the doctors to go and help on the afternoon that accident happened, I saw him in his element.
Now I must get to work, though I still have to fill this page. Anna is in Leiden, as you surely know, and will come here one of these days with our future brother-in-law,14 am looking forward to seeing them very much, Pa wrote so cheerfully about last Sunday when they were in Etten and everything was good in his eyes, and they see rightly, so let us view what has happened to our sister as a blessing on our house, in which we all share; if one member be glad, let all the members be glad with her.15
Next week, or perhaps even tomorrow, Uncle and Aunt Pompe16 are coming to stay here, and also Fanny and Bet ’s Graeuwen,17 it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of them.
Am quite often up rather early in the morning, and when the sun rises over the yard and the workers come a while later it’s a wonderful sight from the window, and I should wish to have you here. Will I later be working on such a morning on a sermon on ‘He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good’,18 or on ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light’,19 or on ‘It is a good thing to praise the Lord in the morning’20 and ‘It is a pleasant thing for the eyes to behold the sun’21 – I hope so.
All the same, it seems that the sun never shines so beautifully as it does in a parsonage or in a church. It’s wonderful to work on ‘the writings’ early in the morning.
If you have the time and a stamp and paper, then write again soon. Uncle Jan sends you his regards, that evening you described there in the dunes must have been pleasant. In Uncle Cor’s shop I recently saw The Gospels by Bida,22 how beautiful it is, how wonderful it must be to be a Christian labourer23 like that, but it’s impossible to put into words how beautiful it is, that’s it24 again, there is much in that work that reminds one of Rembrandt. And now a handshake in thought, and I sincerely wish you the best, and believe me ever

Your most loving brother


Br. 1990: 123 | CL: 103
From: Vincent van Gogh
To: Theo van Gogh
Date: Amsterdam, Friday, 27 July 1877

1. Theo had gone to see Mauve on Saturday, 21 July (FR b2546).
2. As emerges from Van Gogh’s description further on, these three lithographs were taken from Kunstkronijk. The first was made by Carel Christiaan Antony Last after Johannes Bosboom’s Gezicht op de kerk te Scheveningen (View of the church at Scheveningen), in Kunstkronijk 5 (1844-1845), p. 20. Ill. 1840 [1840].
Bosboom made various ‘portraits’ of the church at Breda. Several reproductions of these works appeared in Kunstkronijk, including the lithograph Kerk te Breda met de tombe der graven Engelbrecht i en Jan van Nassau (Church at Breda with the tomb of the counts Engelbrecht i and Jan of Nassau) by Frederik Hendrik Weissenbruch Dzn. (Kunstkronijk 19 (1858), facing p. 46). Ill. 1841 [1841]. Cf. Marius and Martin 1917, pp. 123, 127, 134, 141, 144-147.
Bosboom had three works at the Paris World Exhibition of 1855: Monks of the order of Saint Francis, singing a ‘Te Deum’; The Lord’s Supper room in a Protestant church and Consistory room at Nijmegen. See exhib. cat. 1855, p. 156, cat. nos. 1526-1528. Only the first was reproduced as a lithograph, Franciskaner monniken het Te Deum zingende (Franciscan monks singing the Te Deum) by Frederik Hendrik Weissenbruch, in Kunstkronijk 17 (1856), no. 3, so this must have been the one Vincent sent. Ill. 1842 [1842].
[1840] [1841] [1842]
3. In Theo’s scrapbook the lithograph Molen langs de Trekvaart [461] (Mill by the Trekvaart) by Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (see letter 11, n. 16) is followed by Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch’s Landschap met een bootje (Landscape with a boat) and on p. 3 a Landschap met kerk en molens, gezien vanaf een duin (Landscape with church and windmills, seen from a dune), the last-mentioned lithographed by Jacobus Jan van der Maaten; p. 5 contains the lithograph by Frederik Hendrik Weissenbruch Dzn. after Jan Weissenbruch, Het hofje aan de Nieuwe Haven te ’s-Gravenhage (The ‘hofje’ at the Nieuwe Haven in The Hague) (Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, t*1488). Ill. 1652 [1652], Ill. 1653 [1653] and Ill. 1654 [1654]. (See also letter 13, n. 2).
[461] [1652] [1653] [1654]
4. See letter 121 regarding Vincent’s collection of historical texts.
5. The situation was in fact less promising. Two weeks later Mr van Gogh intimated in a letter to Theo that he was pessimistic about the duration and financing of the preparations: ‘Vincent’s study for the entrance examinations will need to take at least 2, if not 3, years, but provision was made for a test to see whether he was suited to the study, and that seems to be the case. We should hope to find the means necessary’ (FR b2549, 6 August 1877). Lies wrote to her brother optimistically: ‘How wonderful for Pa and Ma that Vincent’s master has assured him that he is suited for the study’ (FR b2550, 12 August 1877).
6. The accident happened on Wednesday, 25 July in the afternoon, according to a report in the Geïllustreerd Politie Nieuws of 28 July 1877. See Groot and De Vries 1990, pp. 36-37.
7. The same newspaper article reported: ‘It proved impossible to save the other child. The body has not yet been recovered.’
9. On Sunday, 22 July, Jeremias Posthumus Meijjes preached the 7 a.m. sermon in the Noorderkerk.
10. Various shipyards were located on Bickerseiland, north-west of the city centre (now on the Westerdok).
11. The Eilandskerk – built on Bickersgracht, at the edge of Bickerseiland – first opened its doors on 9 December 1736; it was demolished in 1950. On that Sunday morning J.P. Stricker conducted the 10 a.m. service at the Eilandskerk.
12. An allusion to the saying ‘I struggle and emerge victorious’, which in the Latin version – ‘Luctor et emergo’ – makes up part of the arms of the province of Zeeland.
15. Here Van Gogh offers a variation on 1 Cor. 12:26, ‘And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.’
17. Francina (Fanny) ’s Graeuwen and Elisabeth (Bet) Hubertha ’s Graeuwen, both daughters of Commander in the Dutch navy Abraham Anthonie ’s Graeuwen and Geertruida van Gogh, a sister of Mr van Gogh. Fanny (a teacher) and Bet were living at the time with their parents in Helvoirt.
20. Cf. Ps. 92:3 (in KJ Ps. 92:2): ‘To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning’ and 1 Chron. 23:30, ‘And to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord’; presumably Van Gogh was quoting from another source.
22. Alexandre Bida designed the illustrations for the deluxe folio volume Les Saints Evangiles. Translated by Bossuet. 2 vols. Paris 1873; they were made into etchings by various artists under the supervision of Pierre Edmond Alexandre Hédouin.
23. For the concept of the ‘Christian Workman’, which is derived from the text De christen-werkman als zendeling by Ottho Gerhard Heldring, see letter 109, n. 15.
24. Anton Mauve’s motto.